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First West Virginia Legislature

Biographical Sketches: Horatio Crooks


Wheeling Intelligencer
August 4, 1863

The First West Va. Legislature.

HOUSE OF DELEGATES

Sketches Personal, Political, and Biographical.

H. N. CROOKS, from Wood.

CAPT. HORATIO NELSON CROOKS, one of the delegates from Wood and Pleasants, has his home at Bellville, in Wood county. -- He is now within a few days of being sixty-two years of age, having been born September, 16, 1801. He is by birth a Pennsylvanian, Pittsburg being the place of his nativity. He was left an orphan when an infant. His ancestors were Scotch, and settled in Londonderry, Massachusetts.-- His father was in the “war of ’12;” was a physician by profession, and was Assistant Surgeon on board that old man-of-war of glorious memory, the Constitution, commanded by Captain Hull, who told “bold Dacres,” of the “Guerriere,” to give up his ship “for it only makes you dull,” and invited him on board the Constitution and “take a little” of his “brandy-o.” Horatio was the youngest child, and was at an early age thrown upon his own resources. The untimely death of his father, who was eminent in his profession and as a scholar, deprived him of many educational advantages he would also have enjoyed. But this only made him the more persevering. He picked up a fair education, not such as is acquired at college, but such as is really of use in helping men through the world, entirely by his own exertions. At the age of twelve he went to the rope making business, and worked at that two years. Then he went on the river. In those early days the Western rivers, including the Ohio, were navigated by “broad horns,” and on these young Horatio learned the art of a pilot – so profound a mystery to those who do not understand it and so simple a [illegible] those who do. -- Many years were spent thus, and he [illegible] to piloting steamboats. Gradually, by a force of character and probity that always bring success, Mr. Crooks rose to the command of a steamer, and as he was prosperous, not only commanded but owned several of them in succession. Capt. Crooks is emphatically and essentially a river man. It has been his life-long business. From the time he was fourteen years of age until less than two years ago he ran the river and did nothing else. He has run the “Father of Waters” from the Falls of Saint Anthony to the Balize and every one of its thousands of tributaries as far up as navigable, and every bayou running out from it, with the single exception of the Plachemine. He was elected to his present position against his wish and almost without notice. He modestly told a friend the other day that he felt very much out of place. “If you would put me on a steamboat,” said the Captain, I would know what to do, but the ‘Ship of State’ is a strange craft, and runs in waters that I’m not acquainted with.” Capt. Crooks was running the “Kenton” from Pittsburg to Memphis when the rebellion broke out. He was at Memphis the night preceeding [sic] the election of members of the convention to consider Federal regulations, and his testimony is that the Union sentiment then largely preponderated even in Memphis. Finding the rebellion had broken up his business, and from other considerations, he sold out and retired about eighteen months ago, to his farm near Bellville, and has since lived the quiet life of a “land lubber.”

Capt. Crooks has been married three times and has seven children. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church; belonged to the southern wing of it which a few years ago had a strong organization in his section, but left it when he found it in sympathy with the rebellion, and attached himself to the main organization. He has been a whig ever since the days of John Quincy Adams – yet never voted for but two presidents, for the reason that he was never at home, and these were Gen. Scott and John Bell. He owns no slaves himself, but has always been opposed to the abolition of slavery or the agitation of the question. Has been nin the southwest a great deal and seen much of slavery and thinks the slaves better off as they are. Is and has always been, essentially a conservative man. Does not like, and does not suffer himself to be called an “abolitionist.” When the vote was taken on the ordinance of secession Capt. Crooks was one of the judges. The precinct is (or was) rebel, giving a majority of 37 for the ordinance. Capt. C had been very ardent and active as a Union man and had made himself obnoxious of course to the rebels. One fellow more rash than the rest called him “a d—d black abolition son of a --,” whereupon the Captain with one blow of his ponderous arm laid the fellow out so flat that he barely got over it alive.

The subject of this sketch is in good circumstances. He owns several fine farms in West Virginia and one in Ohio. His homestead contains some 700 acres of choice land. His life is another example of what worth and energy can accomplish. He began life as a poor orphan boy and has obtained a handsome competence and position in society.

Capt. Crooks is by all odds the Daniel Lambert of the House. His colleague, Mr. Van Winkle, is considered “a good [?]” of a member, but the Captain towers far above him and every one else in the House. He is three or four inches above six feet, broad shouldered, portly, of fine carriage and commanding presence. He reminds one, in his commanding figure, of General Scott as he was ten or fifteen years ago. – His hair is gray and thinned in the coronal region. Forehead high, smooth and white; eyes quiet blue; nose straight and not large; features generally regular and pleasant in their expression, shaves smooth; [?] double; fresh and ruddy. Looks like a good liver, and a man who takes the world easy and is not annoyed by trifles. – Dresses well, in black broadcloth, with swallow tailed coat. Wears a silk hat, which is respectable but not as new as it was once. Is really a modest man and in his present position somewhat diffident.—Possesses the remarkable virtue of saying nothing when he has nothing to say, and up to this writing though always in his seat has opened his lips to speak but once. Seems content to let his colleague do their share of the active legislation—as he is amply qualified to do. In a gentleman of very quiet, [?] demeanor, excellent social qualities, agreeable and cordial in manner, and in conversation a good talker; and may not after all be as much out of his element as he seems to think.


Biographies of the First West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Archives and History